2022 Youth Scholar Biographies

The 2022 SPAH Youth Scholar Poster

  1. Shubhranill Sarkar, 2022 online SPAH Youth Scholar (by video)

Shubhranill Sarkar is a highly accomplished 19-year-old chromatic harmonica player, living in Howrah, West Bengal, India. He started to play harmonica at the age of 5 under Sir Sukanta Ghoshal in Kolkata. He subsequently studied the Indian light and Western Classical genre with Rabindra Sangeet. Shubhranill is now focusing on Indian classical Raga on harmonica under the guidance of a very renowned flute player, Mr. Devkumar Dey. A great moment of pride occurred when a stalwart actor, Mr. Amitabh Bachhan, expressed appreciation for a classical piece he had played on the Harmonica.

At age 9, Shubhranill achieved 1st position in the 2012 All India Harmonica Competition in three categories: Rabindra sangeet, Indian light, and Western.

Shubhranill has performed in Harmonica meets across India. He also has played harmonica in many renowned Bengali T.V channels, including, D.D. Bangla, Channel 10, Akash Bangla, Tara T.V., and Orange Bangla. He has even joined Zee Bangla SaReGaMaPa (a famous reality show) as a special musician. Shubhranill has played the background scores of two movie films: in 2015 in a Malayalam Film (Premam 2015), and in 2019 in a Bengali film (Udaan).

In 2016, Shubhranill received the Sishu kishor academy certificate from the Information and Broadcasting department of the West Bangal government, and in 2016, he received the Master Madan Award from Mumbai 2020. In 2022, Shubhranill performed at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai.

Apart from harmonica, Shubhranill plays piano, guitar, and melodica.  His future goal is to become a very good music composer and director.

  1. Rohan Singhal, 2022 online SPAH Youth Scholar (by video)

Rohan Singhal is a 16-year-old diatonic harmonica player from Indore, India. He has been playing harmonica for the last 12 years and enjoys playing blues, jazz, funk, rock, and fusion of Western and Indian classical music. He has participated and won at the various harmonica competitions, including the National Harmonica league, Bristol,UK, and The World Harmonica festival, Germany in 2017; and the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival, Beijing China, in 2018. Rohan was previously a SPAH Youth Scholar for SPAH Week 2021, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rohan gave solo performances at the Mahindra Blues festival, Mumbai (2018) and the Ziro Festival of music, Arunachal Pradesh (2019), and also has performed at various Jazz festivals in Goa along with Jazz Goa Band and many other local bands there. In 2020, Rohan won the 4th Blues Acoustic Blues contest in India.

His harmonica playing has benefited from workshops of many legends like Steve Baker, Marko Jovanovic, Brendan Power, and Joe Filisko at the Harmonica Masters Workshop (Germany). Rohan is also learning harmonica online in a video exchange program under the two-time Grammy Award Winner, Howard Levy.

In addition, Rohan has been taking formal training for Indian Classical Music for the past 8 years.  His teacher for Indian classical singing is Shri Madan Kumarji and under his guidance Rohan will be appearing for fifth year exam from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva mahavidhyala. Rohan credits this singing training for helping him in his performances of Raag on diatonic harmonica. These activities derive from his keen interest in promoting Indian classical music on the diatonic harmonica, commonly a Western Blues instrument.

In January 2022, Padma Shri award-winner Usha Uthup ji, an Indian music diva, launched her new Blues single ‘Wokay’ in a world premiere where Rohan played a blues solo. Later that year, Rohan performed at the Mahindra Blues Special along with the Band Soulmate. In August, he will be performing at the Blues festival in Shillong, India, to mark the International Blues Day.

Rohan is currently studying in 11th grade and loves football, boxing, swimming, and table tennis. During the lockdown, he also learned to play guitar, ukulele, and saxophone.

3. Mighty Michael Mendelson, 2022 in-person SPAH Youth Scholar

Michael is 14 years old and is a public school student. He has been playing harmonica on stage since he was 7 years old and guitar for the past four years. He performs as the regular special guest at gigs with legendary three-time Hall of Famer, Billy Davis and ‘The Billy Davis Rhythm Machine Band’ on harmonica, guitar and vocals. He can also be seen at many other metro Detroit jams and gigs. Michael was previously a SPAH Youth Scholar in 2019, and performed for SPAH Week 2021, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michael has performed at 26 charitable, community, and civic events, examples being the Ferndale Blues Festival; ‘Make Music Detroit’ at Detroit Institute of Arts; The Jackie Wilson Tribute Concert; Detroit A Go Go; Doo Wop Concert, Northshore Theater, MA; and Detroit Mother’s Day Online Concert

Michael has recorded tracks on three albums: with Dale Robertson; with Muruga Booker, Peter Madcat Ruth, Tony P Funk Thomas, John Saughter; and with Paul Vendetti. With the encouragement of Billy Davis, Michael released his first eleven track CD entitled “Mighty Michael ” in April 2018, which includes one of his original songs. He completed his second CD in 2020, “Caught In The Moment”, which includes original tracks by Michael and Billy Davis, and two original tracks written by Michael.

Michael is featured in the 2018 award winning Detroit music documentary Paradise Boogie “highlighting the alliance of a veteran hall of famer musician and a 10-year-old harp player, honoring the past, present and future of the Detroit blues” with music mentor Billy Davis. During the 2021-2022 years of the pandemic, Michael has continued to be interviewed on several radio shows.

His talent has been recognized by numerous nominations and awards, including:

  • Detroit Music Award Nomination 2018, Best Blues Instrumentalist category
  • Detroit Black Music Award Nomination 2018, Best Blues Instrumentalist category
  • Special Tribute from the State of Michigan, Best New Music Artist, 2018
  • Special Tribute from the State of Michigan, Achievements in the Music Industry, 2018.
  • Detroit Black Music Award Winner in the Blues Category, Charles H. Wright Museum, 2019
  • Pinetop Perkins Master Class Youth Scholarship, Clarksdale, MS, June 2022

4. Elwood Birgden, 2022 in-person SPAH Youth Scholar

Elwood Birgden is a 15-year-old Australian harmonica player who began playing blues harmonica in April 2020, during the covid-19 lockdown. Through the support and guidance of accomplished American blues musicians, who tutored him over Skype lessons, Elwood has been able to develop his keen interest in Chicago Blues.

Big Walter Horton has been the most eminent influence on Elwood’s playing. Horton’s style—being melodic, rhythmic, and pronounced—fascinates him. Elwood often plays at venues such as blues clubs or for performances at his school in Perth, Western Australia.

5. Dhimant Adak, 2022 in-person SPAH Youth Scholar

Dhimant Adak is a 20-year-old professional chromatic harmonica player from India. He has been playing from the age of 14. He has performed in live concerts and recording sessions in multiple parts of India and collaborated with singers, composers, arrangers, as well as other instrumentalists. Dhimant also composes and arranges music for his harmonica playing and for other musicians in his home studio. He plays Western and Indian style of music, as well as standards, bebop jazz, and funk pop. He regularly improvises in jamming sessions and live gigs with different genres of songs, always with his own interpretation. Dhimant has played harmonica as a lead, as well as an accompanying harmonica artist with folk, rock, pop, blues and jazz bands, and on television shows. He has played in concert halls of Kolkata at big-name events with celebrity artists and famous Bollywood composers, and at various corporate gigs and clubs.

 He in a process of making his own jazz-funk harmonica quartet for several jazz clubs and is making a harmonica album of his own compositions. Dhimant has covered various Western classical pieces, Indian classical oriented songs, and Bollywood pops. In addition, Dhimant plays jazz piano and keyboard with several bands, as a freelancer and in solo gigs. He has started working as a studio recordist in other music studios and is in the process of learning to be a mixing and mastering studio engineer.
Dhimant was awarded the best performer prize in an all Bengal harmonica competition and also was awarded 1st prize in the Indian-light section category. He is also one of the harmonica players who is honored by performing in the Indian Harmonica Day that takes place every year.

6. Eduardo Gonçalves, 2022 SPAH in-person Youth Scholar

Eduardo Gonçalves is a 22-year-old harmonica player from Brasília, Brazil. His discovery of the harmonica came at age 13 when he and his family were visiting New York and were going into a music store to buy his first guitar. As they were about to enter the music store, they heard two street musicians, one playing the guitar and the other a harmonica. He so loved the sound of the harp that they bought a Bluesband Hohner harp as well as a guitar. He wound up liking the harmonica way better than the guitar and started to learn by listening and trying to imitate, and then searching for YouTube lessons. Eduardo credits players like Adam Gussow, David Barrett, and Jason Ricci for having a huge positive impact on his life.

Eduardo is currently playing at the opening of concerts by renowned local bands. Although his first love was, and still is, the blues, he started to take lessons last year with a Brazilian harmonica player from his hometown who plays mostly choro and other Brazilian genres. Eduardo hopes to become a player who can incorporate the harmonica and elements of the blues into the local genres.

7. Amy Rister, 2022 online SPAH Youth Scholar (by video)

Amy Rister, also known by their stage name Artemis Lynn, is a 20-year-old country and blues harmonica player and independent musician based out of Cleveland, Ohio. Known for their stage presence, they have been playing harp for 3 years and shown proficiency on the instrument for their time. Their songs often relate to their personal experience with heavy topics not usually discussed in public.

8. Sally Ma, 2022 online SPAH Youth Scholar (by video)

Sally Ma is a 13-year-old harmonica talent based in Shanghai, China. She has been playing the chromatic harmonica for 8+ years. She began to learn chromatic harmonica in kindergarten at age 5 with a teacher and, after only a few months studying, won a Gold Award in Chromatic Harmonica Solo Young Children Group in The 10th Asia Pacific(Hangzhou) Harmonica Festival (2014). At age 7, Mr. Zhao Chenxi (Harmonica Soloist, Hohner Endorser worldwide) began to teach her and has continued up to the present. Sally dreams of becoming a famous harmonica Soloist when she grows up and letting her harmonica music bring joy to others. In 2020, she opened her first harmonica solo concert in Shanghai. In 2021, Sally was a SPAH Youth Online Scholar and performed in the Youth Show for SPAH Week, held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Her accomplishments include:

  • Gold Award in EASTTOP nationwide Cyber Harmonica Solo Competition in open group (2021)
  • Gold Award in Taiwan Harmonica Music Competition in harmonica solo junior (2020)
  • First place in Huaxia* Harmonica Art Festival (Lanzhou) in Junior Chromatic Solo (2019)
  • Third place in 12th Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival (Beijing) in Junior Chromatic Solo (2018)
  • Second place in Huaxia* Harmonica Art Festival (Guangzhou) in Junior Chromatic Solo (2017)
  • Second place in Huaxia* Harmonica Art Festival (Guangzhou) in Junior Dues (2017)

 *Huaxia harmonica Art Festival is a Chinese national-level event held every two years.

9. Tancy Liu, 2022 online SPAH Youth Scholar (by video)

Tancy Liu is a 10-year-old harmonica virtuoso on both chromatic and diatonic harmonica from Shijiazhuang city in Hebei Province, China. She has won diatonic harmonica competitions for youth in China during the last several years. She was honored to be an endorser of Seydel harmonicas. Tancy was a SPAH Youth Scholar for the online SPAH Week in August, 2021.

Tancy started playing both diatonic and chromatic harmonica when she was five years old. Her father often accompanied her in singing and listening to various styles of music. Although her family likes music, none of them they don’t play musical instruments. She first learned blues on the diatonic harmonica on the website tenholes.com in 2017. She also taught herself chromatic chromatic harmonica in 2017. In 2020, Tancy began studying jazz improvisation and Gypsy jazz from Mariano Massolo from Argentina. In 2022, Chinese chromatic harmonica player Tian Long Li, who now resides in Germany, started teaching her Bebop and jazz theories. Tancy feels that the chromatic harmonica allows her to express her musical ideas more freely. She also likes diatonic harmonica for its unique tone. Her favorite styles of music are blues, jazz, pop, and classical.

Little Walter and Toots have most influenced her playing. She says that Little Walter’s powerful tone affected her a lot, that she appreciates the rich musical ideas of Toots

Tancy would like to go to university to study literature in the future. She sees a connection between literature and music. She also wants to use the harmonica to tell stories to people so that more people can feel the charm of the instrument.